4 Irish gaols to visit over the Halloween season

By Katy Thornton

October 21, 2022 at 9:31am


Fancy visiting one of these spooky Irish gaols?


Looking for a slightly educational scare this Halloween? If haunted houses aren't really your thing, then why not stop by one of these gaols, all rich with history and real life stories. And I don't want to alarm you, but there's no way they aren't haunted too.

Just remember to be respectful when visiting these gaols and prisons.

1. Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin

Kilmainham gaol opened in Dublin in 1796. It closed its doors to prisoners in 1924, but you can visit for free nowadays, as long as you book an admission ticket. In the centuries that the gaol operated, there were many executions. During the famine, the gaol became overrun, with cells housing up to five prisoners at a time. Famous prisoners include Robert Emmett, Charles Stewart Parnell, and Patrick Pearse. 14 people were executed at the gaol following the 1916 Easter Rising. It is rumoured prisoner James Connolly was too unwell to stand for his execution, so was shot while seated. This gaol is full of history, and well worth a visit this October.


2. Wicklow Gaol, Wicklow

There are day to day tours at Wicklow Gaol that aren't too expensive if you're looking to visit with friends or family. Wicklow saw much conflict during the 1798 rebellion, and Wicklow Gaol housed a large number of rebels during this time. Two of the rebel leaders imprisoned at Wicklow goal were Billy Byrne and James Nappy Tandy. Byrne was executed while Tandy was not. Like Kilmainham gaol, Wicklow gaol became much busier during the famine. There's so much more to learn, and we recommend taking a visit if you get the chance.

3. Crumlin Road Gaol, Belfast

The tours given at Crumlin Road Gaol are just astounding. The gaol opened in 1845 and saw its first execution in 1854. In 1924, Crumlin Road Gaol briefly imprisoned Eamon De Valera for illegally entering Northern Ireland. We don't want to give too much away about this gaol - the tour more than fills you in on what it was like day to day and the horrors endured by prisoners. Many of the prisoners, when executed, weren't given a proper burial - several of them have been exhumed since the prison's closure in 1996.


Spike Island, Cork

Spike Island has gone through many changes in its 1300 years. It was once the largest convict depot in the world. During the American War of Independence, Spike Island was fortified and Fort Mitchel remains today. At one point, it housed up to 2300 prisoners. There has never been a larger prison in Ireland before or since Fort Mitchel. As with Kilmainham and Wicklow gaol, the prison became overpopulated during Ireland's War of Independence. You really have to see this for yourself - Spike Island was much more than just a prison, and there's so much more to learn.

Which spooky spot will you visit? Are there other Irish gaols we've missed?

Header image via Shutterstock

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